Oliver Anthony, whose single “Rich Men North of Richmond” went viral after its release on Aug. 8, is making music history by being the first artist ever to have a single debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 despite the artist having no prior appearance on any chart. Anthony is also topping charts on Spotify and Apple Music.
“The hopelessness and frustration of our times resonate in the response to this song,” the artist, whose real name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford, told Billboard’s Gary Trust. “The song itself is not anything special, but the people who have supported it are incredible and deserve to be heard.”
Oliver Anthony Dominates Music Charts
Oliver Anthony’s hit single has gotten 33 million views on YouTube as of this writing. The country folk song laments the economic difficulty of living in the U.S. and critiques the political leaders in Washington, D.C., i.e., the “rich men” referenced in the title. “I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day,” the song begins, “Overtime hours for bulls*** pay / So I can sit out here and waste my life away / Drag back home and drown my troubles away.”
The song has been hit among conservatives, with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert among Anthony’s fans. Some people, however, have taken issue with the song’s use of profanity, as well as its reference to “the obese milkin’ welfare.”
“Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds,” say the lyrics, “Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds.”
On Aug. 13, Anthony held his first live show since his hit single’s release; thousands reportedly attended it. At the event, the singer read a portion of Psalm 37, choosing a passage that describes God’s judgment of the wicked, after which the crowd enthusiastically applauded.
In a Facebook post last week, Anthony introduced himself to the public, giving his real name and revealing that he is receiving tens of thousands of messages and has turned down $8 million dollar offers. “There’s nothing special about me,” he said. “I’m not a good musician. I’m not a very good person.” He also shared his perspective that “just like those once wandering in the desert, we have lost our way from God and have let false idols distract us and divide us.”
According to Trust, Anthony’s No. 1 debut on the Billboard Hot 100 chart is significant because the artist has no prior chart history (an unprecedented achievement), he is unsigned, and “Rich Men” is solo-written.
“The Hot 100 blends all-genre U.S. streaming (official audio and official video), radio airplay and sales data, the lattermost metric reflecting purchases of physical singles and digital tracks from full-service digital music retailers,” said Trust. “Digital singles sales from direct-to-consumer (D2C) sites are excluded from chart calculations.”
While the YouTube video for “Rich Men” is dated Aug. 8, Trust writes that the single’s official release was Aug. 11. Anthony’s co-manager, Draven Riffe, said that the song received very little promotion. “We just knew if we got the video out there, people were going to love the song and it would resonate with a lot of folks,” he said.